General Concepts of Injury Law
What should I do in the event of an auto accident?
Here is a basic checklist of things to do should you become involved in an automobile accident. Click here for a smaller, printable copy of this page which we encourage you to print and keep in each vehicle you own.
1. Make sure everyone is out of harms way and call 911.
2. Identify the drivers of the vehicles involved.
3. Get the following information from each driver:
Driver’s license number
Proof of insurance (name of company, policy number)
Vehicle license tag number
Make and model of each vehicle
4. Any evidence of alcohol or drug use by anyone involved? (Write down who and what evidence you have, and who else observed that same thing. After the effects wear off it would be your word against theirs.)
5. Were any passengers in the vehicles? Get their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
6. Were any pedestrians involved in the accident? Get their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
7. Were there any independent witnesses? Get their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
8. Did any person involved in the accident report any personal injury shortly after the accident? Get their name, address and telephone number.
9. Was medical assistance rendered at the scene of the accident? Who needed help? What agency provided assistance?
10. What personal injury did the injured person report? Did anyone say, “I’m not hurt?”
11. What was the actual location of the accident?
12. What direction were the vehicles traveling just prior to the accident?
13. What time of day did the accident occur?
14. What were the weather conditions at the time of the accident?
15. Was there anything "wrong" with any of the vehicles before the accident, such as driving with a broken headlight at night, or with bald tires?
16. Was there any damage to the vehicles as a result of the accident? What parts of the vehicle were damaged?
17. Who were the registered owners of the vehicles (names and addresses)?
18. Did any of the vehicles need to be towed from the scene of the accident?
19. How did the accident occur?
20. Were there any conversations between the involved parties, either between each other or with other persons at the scene? If so, write down in detail all information regarding these conversations.
21. Did the police respond? If so, did they issue a citation to anyone? How many officers were present and from what law enforcement agency (highway patrol, sheriff’s department, municipal police)?
Who do I contact after an auto accident?
Depending upon the nature of the accident and the extent of the damages and injuries involved, a series of auto accident reports must be filed. Sometimes the reporting of an auto accident is mandatory, sometimes it is voluntary. Reports typically must be filed with two organizations:
1. Police (law enforcement agencies) – Kansas requires a police report to be filed in any instance of personal injury or property damage exceeding $1,000.00.
2. Insurance Company – Most auto insurance companies require their policyholders to promptly report every auto accident. The insurance company will want to gather all of the basic information concerning the accident for its records. Sometimes the insurance company will want your authorization to make a recorded statement concerning the accident. We suggest that if you or your passengers were injured in the accident, or believe the insurance company will try to claim "you're not covered" or you have any concerns about the adequacy of your coverage, you should contact an attorney before you go much further, and certainly before you give the insurance company permission to record your conversation. Most automobile liability policies require the insured to “promptly” notify them of an accident and require the insured to “cooperate” with their investigation of the accident and claim process. Your failure to cooperate could serve as the basis for a claim denial by them. Call us and we will help you determine your obligations to your insurance company.
Please keep in mind that you have no legal duty at all to communicate with the other person’s insurance company, and voluntarily giving a written statement and/or a recorded statement to them may not be in your best interest. Before communicating with anyone who might be making inquiry about the automobile accident, including your own company or the other driver’s insurance company, please consult a competent and skilled personal injury attorney before making such statements.
How do I know if I have a legal claim because of this auto accident?
There must always be a legal duty owed to the injured person and a violation or breach of that legal duty. In an auto accident, sometimes the legal duty and breach of duty is obvious and other times it is not. For instance, if one driver runs a red light and causes an accident, or if a driver is speeding and causes an accident, it can be fairly obvious that the driver in question had a legal duty, breached the duty, and is legally at fault. Many other automobile accident situations, however, are not as obvious as our example in terms of who is at fault. At any rate, in order to have a valid legal claim as a result of an automobile accident, the standard “tort” elements must be present:
1. Duty – The existence of a legal duty owed by a person to others;
2. Breach – The breach of the duty by one person (negligence);
3. Causation – The breach of the duty being the "proximate cause" of
damages suffered by a person; and
4. Damages – Actual damages resulting from the breach of duty.
What are the categories of damages for which I may recover after an auto accident?
Millions of auto accidents occur each year, injuring people and damaging property. Where a matter is very minor, many people can go on with their lives, paying the losses out of pocket. But all too often the matter is not minor, and can cost you significant amounts of money and significant personal sacrifice or pain.
As you know, if you suffer a personal injury you'll likely have actual monetary damages, including medical and rehabilitation expenses. You may lose income (and/or have to use up “sick time”) because of the injury and while treatment and recovery takes place. You may have sustained property damage to your car and other property. You may lose the ability to perform various activities of normal daily living, for a while or long term. You may endure pain and suffering.
The law permits you to seek recovery after an accident to "make you whole again." The central concept is that you should be compensated in a manner that, as best as the law can arrange, places you back in the same position as you were before the accident. (HYPERLINK TO DAMAGES SECTION)
What are the potential sources of recovery after an accident?
It is critical in the evaluation of an automobile accident to identify the potential areas for which you may seek recovery for your injuries. In addition to the driver who was at fault and any automobile liability insurance policy he or she may have covering the vehicle involved in the collision, there may be other insurance resources which need to be explored in order to maximize your potential recovery for your serious injury. Please keep in mind also that different insurance devices may take care of different types of claims such as medical payments for actual medical expenses. In addition to the responsible driver’s automobile insurance, your own automobile liability insurance policy provides for personal injury protection, medical payments, and depending upon the circumstances, your own auto policy may offer you coverage for what is called “uninsured motorist (UM) protection” or “underinsured motorist (UIM) protection” in the event the other driver did not have insurance or did not have enough liability insurance. Your own medical insurance and/or the homeowner’s policies of the other driver or your own homeowner’s policy may provide additional coverage. Some people maintain “umbrella” coverage or excess coverage which would be an additional source of potential recovery, or if it was a commercial vehicle involved in the accident or a corporation was a party to your claim, it may very well be that there is an excess insurance policy in place that would provide benefits. If so, in summary there are at least the following categories of applicable insurance that need to be explored for possible payment of benefits:
1. Responsible other driver’s auto insurance (third-party claim).
2. Your own auto insurance policy.
3. Your medical/health insurance provider.
4. Homeowner’s policy of driver at fault.
5. Excess coverage provided if a corporate vehicle was involved.
Again, it is necessary to consult with a competent personal injury attorney to make sure that all available resources of potential recovery are explored so that you have the opportunity to maximize your claim recovery for your serious injury.